Friday, July 21, 2006

Kathy Griffin: D for Personality

I used to be a huge fan of Kathy Griffin, back when she'd only had one Bravo special and in the early days of her reality show, "Kathy Griffin: Life on the D-List." What made her so much fun was her willingness to laugh at herself - that and her dishing of celebrity gossip. Kathy was just like the rest of us. She was a hard-working woman struggling to make it in an industry that doesn't much care for women, especially women who don't have money, who aren't thin, who aren't white, etc. And Kathy would get out on stage and just pop all of those little fantasy celebrity bubbles. She would tell us which stars thought they were something special (Sharon Stone) and which ones were cool (Celine Dion). And we would sit back and laugh with Kathy, because she was cool, too. As she told us, we were her "peeps."

Except lately, I'm not feeling so much like I'm one of her peeps. Before, I always had the sense that if I were to run into her in an elevator or a waiting room somewhere, we'd make eye contact and immediately "get it" - we'd chuckle about the obviously closeted gay guy standing next to us and the equally clueless matron trying to fix him up with her granddaughter. We'd laugh at the fashion fiasco that is the '80s revisited (boots with capri leggings? I don't think so.). And I'd feel that she was real and genuine and down to earth and friendly, just as she acts like she is in her stand-up routines.

Except that she isn't. She's still real and genuine and down to earth and friendly with the poor schmucks who have the audacity to book her for dog shows and fundraisers, which are never high profile enough to suit her and at which she is never given the diva treatment she obviously feels she deserves, never hesitating to point this out to us, the viewers. (It's funny, though, that she never turns down these gigs that are so beneath her.) But as soon as the poor schmucks turn their backs, there's Kathy, making nasty comments about how low rent their special events are, how pathetic her life is, how terrible it is that she has to put up with small crowds, with people not recognizing her, with no large private dressing rooms, and how Jennifer Aniston has no idea what it's like.

This is, of course, the whole gimmick of her reality show. As the title tells us, the show lets us know what life is like for a D-list star, and it is funny to see her get the key to a city when there is no one there to see her receive it. But it's hard to reconcile this image of poor, hard-working, friendly Kathy with the Diva Kathy who hires an insane L.A. dog trainer instead of actually working to train her dog (what do these people think? If you have an animal, you need to train it. It doesn't just magically happen.). Just for example, insane dog trainer tells Kathy to dress up as a huge squirrel as part of the dog training, and Kathy is so far gone that she has the balls to tell her assistant, Jessica, to do it (Jessica flat out tells the camera that she will not, and eventually, Kathy backs down). The Diva lives in a huge and very expensive house; she stays at fine hotels; she even brings her DOGS to fine hotels. It's hard to feel like she's one of us when she is constantly telling us that she's better than us, that she deserves more than we do, and that we (meaning America) had better start appreciating her.

And, sort of off-topic but not really, her fag hag routine is kind of humorous, given her husband's and parents' obvious homophobia, but it's also kind of offensive. I can't help but notice that when she talks about "the gays" as if they're her private fan club, she always means men. Queer women never make an appearance in Kathy-world, and I suspect, though I can't say for sure, that if Kathy were to make a statement on lesbianism it would be something akin to Carrie Fisher's and Madonna's insulting conversation from several years ago, in which they decided that lesbianism was ultimately too ridiculous and too lacking to get them off. Oh, and demeaning - lesbians packing dildos were demeaning, too, if I remember correctly. So anyway, I can see Kathy saying something like that, with the added jab that lesbians have a poor sense of style. So I guess I'm glad that I haven't heard her speak on the topic.

Frankly, she was a lot funnier when I didn't know what she was really like.


marc said...

Funny, I just heard about the D-List for the first time this week. Griffin did a cook-off for the Gender PAC directors, two queer women who live in Chicago. Possibly redeeming, but the qualities you mention ring true in this episode too. GPAC liked the coverage, anyway. The clip is here, GPAC website .

plain(s)feminist said...

I saw part of that episode this morning in the gym. It's great that she did a fundraiser for them, but I thought she was a bit full of herself ("here I am, in someone's KITCHEN.").